Sustainable development over the next several decades offers “vast new business opportunities” – valued as much as US$6.2 trillion – for companies that have “the foresight to lead,” according to a new report by a leading corporate sustainability group.
The report from the World Business Council for Business Development (WBCSD) – Vision 2050: The New Agenda for Business – calls on businesses around the world to “develop strategies that would enable a global population of some 9 billion people to live well within the resources of the planet by 2050.”
A group of twenty-nine companies – led by Alcoa, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Storebrand and Syngenta – helped develop the report, which focuses on “the roles that business must play over the next few decades to enable society to move toward being sustainable.”
Alcoa Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Mohammad A. Zaidi, who co-chaired the 18-month project, said: “The world already has the knowledge, science, technologies, skills and financial resources needed to achieve Vision 2050. However, concerted global action in the next decade will be required to bring these capabilities and resources together, putting the world on the path to sustainability.”
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development. Members are drawn from more than 36 countries and 22 major industrial sectors.
The Vision 2050 report identifies a “critical pathway” that includes:
- Addressing the development needs of billions of people, enabling education and economic empowerment, particularly of women, and developing radically more eco-efficient solutions, lifestyles and behavior;
- Incorporating the cost of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water;
- Doubling of agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used;
- Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests;
- Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050, with greenhouse gas emissions peaking around 2020 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems and highly improved demand-side energy efficiency;
- Providing universal access to low carbon mobility; and
- Delivering a four-to-tenfold improvement in the use of resources and materials.
“Making these changes – and more – will enable us to consume just over one planet’s worth of ecological resources in 2050, as opposed to the 2.3 planets we will be using if we continue on the business-as-usual path we are on today,” the report says.
Vision 2050 suggests that the “transformation ahead” represents “vast opportunities” in a broad range of business segments as the global challenges of growth, urbanization, scarcity and environmental change become “the key strategic drivers” for business in the coming decade.
In natural resources, health and education alone, the broad order of magnitude of some of these could be around US$ 0.5-1.5 trillion per annum in 2020, rising to between US$ 3-10 trillion per annum in 2050 at today’s prices, which is around 1.5-4.5% of world GDP in 2050, according to the report.
WBCSD said project member companies on Vision 2050 were Accenture, Alcoa, Allianz, ArcelorMittal, The Boeing Company, Duke Energy Corporation, E.ON, Eskom, Evonik Industries, FALCK Group, Fortum Corporation, GDF SUEZ, GrupoNueva, Holcim, Infosys Technologies, Osaka Gas Co., PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Procter & Gamble Company, Rio Tinto, Royal Philips Electronics, Sony Corporation, Storebrand, Syngent International, The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Toyota Motor Corporation, Umicore, Vattenfall, Volkswagen and Weyerhaeuser Company.
The Vision 2050 report can be downloaded here.